The day that many Penguins fans circled on their calendars finally arrived.
On December 29, Pittsburgh faced cross-state rival Philadelphia – and some familiar faces were wearing orange and black sweaters.
Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot both signed with the Flyers during the summer and left Pittsburghers with mixed feelings.
Some are still bitter after seeing the former fan favorites join their hated rival. But the fans did give Talbot – who signed a five-year, $9 million contract with the Flyers this summer – a warm welcome back with a standing ovation after a video tribute honoring his six seasons in black and gold during the first period.
“I can understand why he went. It’s hard to see him go, but he’s got to do what’s right for him,” Jeremy Nixon of Johnstown said. “I think the city will show a good response to him coming back, but after that’s over, he’s now a Flyer.”
Many fans entering CONSOL Energy Center tonight understood his decision to leave and wished him the best.
“It was a business decision. He won a cup for us here with game seven winners,” fan Justin Knox said. “He’s a Penguins’ legend and in Penguins’ folklore. The best to Max and good luck in Philly.”
And Talbot was touched by the fans’ reaction.
“The Penguins organization is just really classy. I obviously want to thank them for that,” he said. “They could have just done nothing. But they showed their class by doing that for me. Obviously it felt real special and the fans reacted really well. It was a special moment for me.”
Crowd reaction towards Jagr wasn’t as favorable. As the players hit the ice prior to the national anthem and opening faceoff, a “Jagr sucks” chant rang through the arena and fans booed him every time the puck was on his stick.
“He’s done a lot for the organization, but his recent turn of events when he decided to go to Philly versus coming here was a little unfortunate,” Don of Wexford said. “It left a bad taste for the fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins.”
Jagr received interest from many NHL teams during the summer break after a three-year hiatus from the league, including the Penguins – with whom he help win two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992 before signing with their biggest rival.
“I still love him for winning the Stanley Cup,” Pittsburgh native Danielle Muray said. “Now it’s just too bad that he’s always chose to play the teams that we don’t like after he left the Penguins.”
However, not everyone in attendance joined in on the booing – choosing instead to remember Jagr’s best moments in the Steel City.
“I can understand that people will be booing him tonight, but I won’t be one of them,” Knox said. “He’s one of the greatest Penguins of all time."
WATCH: MAX TALBOT VIDEO TRIBUTE